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Johne’s Disease in Cattle Frequently Asked Questions

What is Johne’s disease?

Johne’s (pronounced “Yo-nees”) disease is caused by an infectious bacteria. It is a disease that affects cattle and other ruminants and primarily affects the intestinal tract.

Johne’s disease (JD) bacteria affect animals by causing a thickening of the intestinal wall resulting in a reduction in the absorption of food. The infected animal is hungry and eats, but the absorption of nutrients is severely restricted. This results in wasting and finally death. Diarrhoea and bottle jaw are also common signs in cattle. It can take many years from first infection to when these signs occur, and animals can shed bacteria in their manure in the meantime.

Who owns J-BAS (Johne’s Beef Assurance Score)?

No-one ‘owns’ J-BAS; however, Cattle Council Australia is responsible for national beef cattle industry policy and oversees design and implementation of the tool. AHA (Animal Health Australia) manages the tool, based on Cattle Council guidance.

What is a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS)?

J-BAS is a risk profiling tool developed for use in the management of Johne’s disease (JD) in beef cattle. The scoring system is from 0 (being ‘Unmanaged risk’) to 8 (‘High Assurance’). (There is also a Dairy Score for dairy cattle with a similar range of scores, with the two scoring systems intended to be complementary.)

J-BAS applies nationally, so a score has the same provisions whether the herd is located in a previous low-risk area such as Queensland or in a previous high-risk area.

A J-BAS of 7 or higher indicates that the property is actively managing to prevent infection entering or being spread from the property.  A score of 6 or less indicates that the property’s focus for JD management is to minimise the impact of disease should infection occur.

The scores have been developed to allow producers to communicate to buyers of their cattle what JD risk they believe the cattle represent, and for buyers and agistors to assess the risk of stock in which they might be interested. The voluntary, self-assessed score requires having a biosecurity plan for the property and is based on history of JD on the property and what testing might have been done. Buyers should ask further questions of the vendor if worried about JD, and not just focus on the score alone. There is a checklist on AHA’s website to help with questions that could be asked.

Note that a score is not an indicator of management skills, competency or quality.  A low or zero J-BAS does not necessarily mean that producers are negligent or irresponsible.  Some properties will best meet their production, trading and economic objectives by holding a low or zero score; others may prefer a higher score.

What other tools support risk-based JD management?

Other tools can assist producers and veterinary advisers to assess and declare JD risks in line with voluntary producer management.  These tools include:

  • Cattle Health Declaration – for vendors to declare the risks and management of a range of cattle health conditions (including but not limited to JD), and to enable buyers to assess and make decisions relevant to those risks
  • JD Checklist – lists key elements to consider in planning, assessing and managing JD risks
  • Biosecurity plan templates – enable producers to assess and write up a plan to manage a range of biosecurity risks on their property, including JD
  • Dairy Score – for assessing and declaring JD risks in dairy cattle
  • JD in Cattle Definitions and Guidelines – to standardise terms and practices.

Why was the J-BAS system created?

The national approach to JD management now treats the disease as just one of many that producers must manage within their business. Producers are responsible for the implementation and management of an on-farm biosecurity planning and practices (not just for JD), which enables producers to take control over their own productivity and profitability.

Producers are encouraged to make commercial decisions taking into account the risks (and opportunities) associated with the livestock they are thinking of purchasing and selling.

Is J-BAS voluntary or mandatory?

J-BAS is a voluntary tool. It has however, been referenced in WA and NT entry requirements, so is necessary for entry into those markets. Under the JD Framework (of which J-BAS is a part), each producer is responsible for their own JD risk management and is encouraged to consult a vet.

Is a register of J-BAS herds being kept?

No. J-BAS is a voluntary, self-assessed scheme with the associated biosecurity plan being held by the producer.

Does anyone provide training on J-BAS?

There is help with biosecurity planning available, but not on J-BAS specifically. See resources on the JD in Cattle webpage

For producers wishing to maintain a J-BAS of 7 or 8, a vet must sign the biosecurity plan to indicate they have discussed biosecurity risks with the producer and will assist in the management of these risks when required. Vets may do the Market Assurance Program training (previously required for CattleMAP) for some general information about JD and the laboratory tests, but it is not essential for J-BAS.  Information for vets can be found here. 

By signing the Plan, vets are simply saying they have had the necessary discussion with the producer; the vet is not required to conduct an audit for compliance.

Biosecurity Requirements

What transitional arrangements have been in place?

Transitional arrangements were put in place from 2016 until mid-2018 to help producers shift to the J-BAS tool.  Those transitional arrangements have now expired.  For the JD Dairy Score, a transition arrangement is in place unit 30 September 2019.

Initially, all beef herds were given a transition score based on the old zoning system. Herds in NSW, Qld, NT and northern SA were given a transition score of J-BAS 7, as were herds known as Beef Only. All herds in WA were given a transition score of J-BAS 8. These transition scores could be maintained by implementing a biosecurity plan (signed by their veterinarian) and submitting Check test samples by 30 June 2018 with clear results.

Herds which have a biosecurity plan, no clinical case of JD within the last five years but not undertaken a Check test are eligible for a default J-BAS of 6.

Herds which have had a clinical case of JD within the last five years are not eligible for the default score of 6 and transitioned to a score 0, 2 or 4 depending on the time since the last clinical case and what’s been done since.

How is J-BAS being enforced?

J-BAS is a voluntary self-declaration. There is no central authority signing off on plans; however buyers, markets and jurisdictions with entry requirements may request a copy of your Cattle Health Declaration, on-farm biosecurity plan and test results.

What plan do I need to complete in order to meet J-BAS and LPA requirements?

A number of biosecurity plan options are available that meet both the J-BAS and LPA requirements (e.g. ‘On-farm Biosecurity Plan Workbook’, or the ‘On-Farm Biosecurity Template’ available on AHA and Farm Biosecurity websites, or the Australian Cattle Vet’s ‘BioCheck’). To meet J-BAS requirements any plan can be used, provided it addresses the minimum standards set by the National Farm Biosecurity Reference Manual for Grazing Livestock Production and it includes the JD in Cattle Biosecurity Checklist.

To meet the requirements of LPA, as a minimum each Property Identification Code (PIC) must have a formal, documented Farm Biosecurity Plan that addresses each of the following: (a) Manage and record the introduction and movement of livestock in a way that minimises the risk of introducing and/or spreading infectious diseases; (b) Where reasonable and practicable, control people, equipment and vehicles entering the property, thus minimising the potential for property contamination and, if possible, keep a record of such movements; and (c) Prevent and control animal diseases on-farm by regularly monitoring and managing livestock.

On-farm biosecurity plan

Why should I complete the ‘On-farm biosecurity plan template’?

The Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program requires all LPA-accredited producers to have a Farm Biosecurity Plan and implement best-practice biosecurity management.  Biosecurity plans and practices will be audited as part of the LPA audit.

The most effective way to manage the risk of pests and diseases gaining a foothold on a property is through implementing a biosecurity plan. A biosecurity template covers many activities that you will already be doing on your property as biosecurity precautions, such as regularly inspecting stock and fences. The template is a tool for you to use, so that you start documenting those activities and have written confirmation to provide to a buyer should it be requested.

You should ideally create an ‘action list’ when doing your plan and aim to make improvements in biosecurity practices where possible throughout the year, and review the plan on an annual basis. A ‘reference documents’ column has been listed in the template, which provides useful resources for establishing a good biosecurity plan. You should store all necessary documentation with your plan (e.g. treatment records, paddock records, etc.) so they are easily accessible; not all the reference documents may be necessary for your operation.

To maintain a J-BAS of 7 or 8, the On-farm biosecurity plan template must be signed by a veterinarian. The template on our website meets the requirements for LPA accreditation as well as J-BAS (providing the JD section is completed).

Where do I find a biosecurity plan template?

The On-farm biosecurity plan template has been developed to help producers with writing a plan. This document can be found on the Animal Health Australia website here

Other acceptable templates exist (e.g. BioCheck). The Integrity Systems Company has utilised this template for the LPA biosecurity module, although slightly reduced in size.

How do I set up a biosecurity plan for a property which comprises multiple blocks, or for which there are mixtures of agistment and home herds?

Biosecurity plans for JD should be based on ‘herds’ according to risk of spread of infection.  Cattle on different blocks within an enterprise, or agistment cattle on a property, may or may not be considered part of a single ‘herd’ depending on the level of co-grazing, animal exchange, and use of shared facilities.

A simple guide should be to only record cattle in one biosecurity plan if they contact each other or each other’s grazing land at all within a 12 months period, and to only separate cattle into more than one plan if they have no contact with each other or each other’s grazing land for at least 12 months.

A JD-trained veterinary advisor should definitely be engaged to develop a plan where more than one ‘herd’ might be involved.

If I answer ‘no’ to any of the template questions will this affect my score?

No, the template is a guidance document for you to manage your on-farm biosecurity risks and improve your biosecurity practices. Some elements may not be applicable to your management system. Anything ticked ‘no’ can be improved over the next 12 months and occasionally some issues will be extremely difficult to resolve, but it’s good to record your awareness of them and follow up if you can.

Where do I submit my biosecurity plan?

There is no requirement for formal lodging of the plan. It is to be stored somewhere easily accessible so you can refer back to it when required or produce it when requested, such as for an LPA audit.

The plan is to assist you in having appropriate biosecurity measures in place. You can expect your biosecurity plan to change over time as biosecurity risks evolve, the operations on your and neighbouring properties change and as your own understanding and operations of biosecurity improve. For example, your priority may shift from J-BAS to weeds or animal diseases that affect humans once you have decided on your JD management. The plan is intended to be routinely reviewed so that you can improve your biosecurity practices where required.

What does ‘Vet oversight’ mean?

Veterinary oversight means the vet has given the person filling out the plan advice on biosecurity risks for the property and how best to manage those risks.  The vet’s signature is only intended to say the vet has had the discussion, which could be had by phone, with the signature collected when the producer is next in town. A scanned, emailed version would be OK.

The roles for veterinarians under the new industry arrangements are to provide advice to producers in the drafting of the property biosecurity plans, collect and submit samples for laboratory testing for Check Tests and Sample Tests (for producers choosing J-BAS 7 or 8 for their herd(s)), and provide technical advice such as interpreting test results and assessing risks.

There is no requirement under the new industry arrangements for veterinarians to have undertaken training in JD or to be approved as was previously required by CattleMAP. Training is available for veterinarians here.

J-BAS scoring

How do I know what score I should give my cattle?

The scores are based on the likelihood of a herd’s previous exposure to JD and a producer’s preparedness in managing risks. The score sheet can be found here

Most beef herds in Australia, which will have a biosecurity plan in place to meet LPA requirements and for which a clinical case of JD in the previous 5 years is unlikely, will be eligible for a score of 6.  A higher score can be used once testing requirements have been met.  Some beef herds have used the transitional arrangements, a biosecurity plan and testing to be eligible for score of 7 (or 8 in WA).  The score for a herd which has had a clinical case in the past 5 years will be determined according to the score sheet.

What score should I aim for in my business?

Many producers may decide that they do not need a score if JD is of little to no interest to their business. As an example, producers who only buy, fatten and sell young cattle for slaughter have no commercial reason to run a JD management program. Others, like holders of breeding cattle or suppliers of cattle to other producers or for live export, should want to protect their property and herd against becoming infected with JD.

If you are a producer who accesses the WA market or NT market, or are likely to sell cattle to a producer who does, you should aim to meet their entry requirements. You may wish to consult your buyers or agent for their views, remembering the final decision rests with you. Producers should remain JD aware if they intend to access the live export trade.

What is the difference between J-BAS 6 and J-BAS 7?

The biosecurity plan, the veterinary engagement and testing for J-BAS 7 (and J-BAS 8 to a greater extent) show that the property is unlikely to be infected.

A score of 6 indicates that a biosecurity plan is in place and there has been no detected clinical case in the preceding 5 years, but the producer has chosen not to engage a vet or request assurance testing of the herd.  As a broad measure, the lower the J-BAS, the higher the risk of JD infection.

This is a national framework that no longer recognises the former regional differences in risk, so a J-BAS 6 herd which is bringing in other J-BAS 6 animals is accepting that level of risk across Australia.

For beef herds to progress to or regain J-BAS 7, a biosecurity plan signed by a veterinary advisor and a Sample Test (210-300 samples, depending on herd size) with clear results are minimum requirements.

Why do I need a veterinarian?

For J-BAS 7 and 8, your biosecurity plan must be overseen and signed by a veterinarian and have undertaken a Sample test (or Check test under the previous transitional arrangements) with negative results. Without veterinary oversight of a plan you will not be eligible for scores 7 or 8. It is not intended for the vet to audit the plan, merely sign to say they’ve explained disease-related biosecurity risks to you. For anything below J-BAS 7, or for biosecurity planning generally, it is wise but not essential to consult a vet.

Can I introduce cattle from a lower score herd?

Introducing cattle with a lower score may affect your J-BAS unless you are confident that the source herd is low risk and well managed under good biosecurity practices. Introduced animals can be addressed with the biosecurity plan and handled through actions like monitoring them for signs of illness, keeping them separate from vulnerable young cattle on the property and/or testing them (especially if a J-BAS 7 and 8 where testing is required). Introductions for J-BAS 7 and 8 herds should be discussed with the veterinary advisor before purchasing the animals. Herds selling cattle to WA will need to check with the WA Department for entry requirements.

Examples of ways that small numbers of lower-score cattle may be introduced and managed without affecting the J-BAS score, subject to discussion with your veterinarian, are:

  • Lower-score bulls may be isolated and collected for artificial insemination (AI) without exposing at-risk animals to their higher risk. This option is not likely to be practical for commercial properties which want an introduced bull to be out working in the breeder paddocks, but may be applied for studs.
  • Isolate lower-score females (including progeny) as a separate herd.
  • Test introduced lower-score bulls or females at regular intervals by faecal testing (not ELISA blood testing). Although this testing can never prove the animals are not infected, consistently negative results can show that the animals are unlikely to have been excreting to spread infection, and so co-grazing breeders and progeny are unlikely to have been exposed.  The cost and inconvenience of this monitoring should be part of the cost-benefit assessment that you make before embarking on this strategy.  This does carry a risk of detection of excretion in the lower-status animals, in which case the J-BAS of the in-contact herd would be affected.
  • Introduce only a small number of lower-score cattle (maximum of 5% of the herd) and specifically include them in the regular Check Testing. This strategy was acceptable practice in the former CattleMAP.

Cattle which have been introduced from a lower-score herd should not be assigned the J-BAS of their new herd for re-sale.

Does vaccination have a role to play in the management of JD on my property? Will vaccinating affect the J-BAS for my cattle?

Vaccination does have a role to play, particularly with sheep and goats. Gudair® is available for widespread use in the sheep industry and Silirum® is useful in some circumstances within the cattle (particularly dairy) sector. Please note, the use of Gudair® is not permitted in cattle and the use of Silirum® vaccine in cattle is not permitted in Western Australia at present.

Both forms of vaccine have been shown to reduce shedding (bacteria being spread through the faeces of infected livestock) and mortalities from JD. While vaccination doesn’t kill the bacteria, it does reduce their impact, particularly with sheep. Vaccine is the most effective tool available for managing the disease in sheep. Sheep flocks being ‘approved vaccinates’* would mean that the risk of JD spreading from sheep to cattle on the property is low.

In deciding the J-BAS for your cattle, producers should consider the management of JD in all livestock species on the property and particularly take into account when the last clinical case occurred on the property in any species. For example, utilising a vaccination program in sheep on the property should be seen as positive in that it reduces the risk of cross-infection to cattle. Also, if no clinical case has occurred within the last five years and an on-farm biosecurity plan has been implemented (without the need for a vet), a producer can give the herd a J-BAS of 6. On the other hand, if a clinical case has occurred in any species over two years but less than five years ago, a J-BAS of 4 can be applied, provided other conditions are met (see the J-BAS chart).

* Approved Vaccinate:  A sheep that is identified by an NLIS (sheep) ‘V’ tag and is:

  • vaccinated with an approved OJD vaccine by 16 weeks of age, or
  • vaccinated with an approved OJD vaccine after 16 weeks of age, when the flock:
    • was in the SheepMAP, or
    • had undertaken a negative Faecal 350 test in the two years preceding the vaccination, or
    • had a Negative Abattoir 500 status at the time of vaccination.

Mixed livestock producer

What if I’m a mixed livestock producer with cattle? Do I have to have a J-BAS?

Having a J-BAS is voluntary; however producers should consider the benefits of a J-BAS as a tool for managing JD risk and apply it according to the needs of their operation.

If you choose to have a J-BAS, it would only be for your cattle. This said, it’s important all susceptible species on your property are managed for JD (and other important diseases) because JD can spread from species to species.

What tools do I have available to manage JD in multiple species of livestock on my property?

For the cattle sector, the JD management Framework [URL here perhaps?] is in place. For sheep there is a variety of tools in place for management of JD on farm including SheepMAP, property biosecurity plans and abattoir monitoring for producers wanting to test their sheep.

Both programs are industry owned and managed and require producers to be responsible for the health and wellbeing of their own livestock.

Each program includes a range of useful tools, including vaccines and Animal Health Declarations.

Cattle are at minimal risk of contracting JD from sheep on the same property if these sheep are covered by a JD vaccination program (i.e. all retained sheep are approved vaccinates).

The goat and alpaca industries also have tools in place to help manage JD and other endemic diseases.

What if I have had a clinical case in my sheep but not my cattle? What J-BAS can I give my cattle?

As JD affects all susceptible species, a clinical case in sheep has to be considered when deciding a J-BAS for cattle from the same property. Please refer to the J-BAS chart for information on how the J-BAS is decided when taking into account recent clinical cases across species.

As an example, if you had a sheep diagnosed with clinical JD three years ago but nothing since, and you have commenced a Gudair® vaccination program in your sheep, you can give your cattle a J-BAS of 4 provided you have an on-farm biosecurity plan in place and meet all other requirements (like identifying and removing all high-risk animals).

As another example, if a clinical case has occurred in any species on the property in the last two years, a J-BAS of 2 can be used provided there is an on-farm biosecurity plan in place and all clinical cases have been removed.

If producers wish, they can implement strategies to manage their cattle herds up to a higher J-BAS by following the guide set out in the J-BAS chart.

What if I just have a milking cow? Is this co-grazing with dairy?

The risk of transferring JD from a milker is very low.  First the milker has to be infected and shedding and then has to graze consistently with beef cattle, which is rarely the case.  Nevertheless, it should be considered when working out risk.

Will quarantining my cattle after purchase help me manage JD?

Quarantining introduced livestock away from resident livestock for a period of several weeks is good biosecurity practice and is strongly encouraged. Unfortunately for JD though, the bacteria can live in the gut of livestock for years before the animals show symptoms, so quarantining is usually of no benefit for JD management.

The only cases where quarantine may be usefully applied for JD are isolating and testing of short-term cattle with lower score but having other values (such as stud bulls or recipient heifers).

Testing for Johne’s disease

What is a Check Test?

To maintain J-BAS 7 or 8, producers must undertake a Check Test of samples from at least 50 adult animals within the herd (or in a herd of less than 50, all eligible animals). This test is done every three years for maintaining the score.

For more information on testing, see the JD in cattle Definitions and Guidelines.

What is a Sample Test?

A Sample test involves sampling of a significant proportion (between 210 and 300 animals) of the adult herd, or the whole herd (if less than 210 animals). Sample testing is required to reach J-BAS 7 or 8.

More information can be found in the JD in Cattle Definitions and Guidelines document.

Can producers instead of veterinarians take samples for testing?

No. Producers should use a veterinarian for taking and submitting samples for JD testing, and should not accept a claimed J-BAS if the producer rather than a veterinarian has collected samples for testing.

Taking and submitting samples for JD can be complex and prone to error.  If you or others are to rely on test results for a herd assessment or J-BAS, for your own animals or for a herd you might be considering buying from, you will want to be confident of the standard.

Sampling animals for JD testing involves the processes of selecting the appropriate test, selecting appropriate animals for sampling, having the right equipment, undertaking the sampling and identification of selected animals, maintaining sample integrity and security including cold-chain management, identifying an approved laboratory, arranging consignment, submitting to the lab, receiving results, and interpreting results.  Veterinarians are overseen by a registration authority to ensure the quality standards of these and other veterinary activities.

Veterinarians who are trained and CVO-approved for JD are able to demonstrate competency, so are recommended. JD training for vets is available free of charge on the AHA website.

As J-BAS 7 and 8 require the vet to oversee the biosecurity plan and testing of samples to be done, it is wise to have the vet conduct both tasks with the one visit.

Some laboratories will not accept samples for JD testing unless they are submitted by a veterinarian.

What cattle are selected for testing?

The selection of animals for sampling and testing is the responsibility of the veterinarian.

Eligible animals are cattle over two years of age.

Note that both a Check Test and a Sample Test should be representative of the whole herd, biased to include higher-risk animals such as introductions and especially those from high-risk sectors and wasting animals.  A sampling veterinarian should examine the herd for wasting animals, identify high-risk introductions, and sample the remainder proportionally from each mob according to mob size.  They should not simply sample the first 50 animals presented by the producer.

What samples are collected?

Veterinarians should check with their state laboratory before taking samples for any specific requirements.

As a guide the size of individual faecal samples should be a minimum of 30g (70ml screw-top container, ½ to ¾ full).

Do not pool cattle faecal samples on-farm; pooling (where appropriate) will be done at the laboratory.  (Sheep and goat pellets may be pooled on-farm.) Chill as quickly as possible. If faecal samples cannot be delivered to the laboratory within 48 hours, they must be frozen to -80OC.

For ELISA serology (which is NOT recommended for J-BAS), collect 10ml clotted blood from individual animals.  Ensure that each sample is identifiable to each animal. Allow the blood to clot, separate, then chill for transportation.

What laboratory test can be used?

Options for testing are:

  • Culture on individual or pooled faecal samples
  • HT-J PCR on individual or pooled faecal samples.
  • ELISA on blood samples (not recommended and not accepted by WA for entry of cattle)

Any ELISA- or PCR-test reactors must be followed up with a definitive test (faecal culture, or tissue culture and histopathological investigation).

In northern Australia, ELISA testing should be avoided due to the relatively high risk of false positive results and consequential costs (approximately $1000 laboratory charges and a delay of 6 months) for resolution testing.  Although initially cheaper, using the ELISA test in northern Australia is probably false economy; testing by faecal culture or HT-J PCR is recommended.

For entry to WA, testing by the HT-J PCR on faecal samples is necessary to meet entry requirements.

What follows if testing detects JD infection?

As JD remains a notifiable disease (for recording and not for quarantine purposes, except in WA), suspicion or confirmation of JD must be reported by the laboratory to the state/territory government. This is recorded for use by the governments when certifying animals for export.

Under the national framework, there will be no quarantine or other regulatory consequence applied in response to detection or suspicion of JD (WA and NT may apply quarantine and other measures under their own laws.)

The J-BAS of the herd will be affected, depending on subsequent management decisions and the occurrence of clinical cases.

If infection without clinical Johne’s disease (wasting, scouring, and unresponsive to treatment) is detected, such as by testing of a J-BAS 7 herd, the score will be 6 if an appropriate biosecurity plan is in place.

If clinical disease occurs, the J-BAS will be 0 if there is no biosecurity plan appropriate to the occurrence of disease, or 2 if there is a biosecurity plan that addresses the clinical disease.  Once measures are in place and clinical disease does not recur, the score can be progressed.

If a positive result to a screening test (such as ELISA) is not investigated and resolved, the J-BAS will be 0.

Properties which have previously consigned cattle as low-risk may consider advising recipients of those cattle of the revised risk status, so that the recipients can make informed assessment and management decisions.

Purchasing and showing cattle

When buying beef cattle, how can I be sure the J-BAS is accurate?

First, it’s important to have the vendor provide you with a Cattle Health Declaration (CHD) on which the J-BAS self-assessment (if there is one) is written. The CHD is a legal document and must contain only truthful statements.

Second, the owner who is selling the cattle nominates the J-BAS.  If the buyer has concerns around JD, it’s vital they are satisfied with the information on the CHD and, if needed, should contact the seller to ask further questions around how the livestock have been managed. This information will help the buyer when assessing JD risk from the cattle being purchased.

Buyers should ideally buy from herds with an equivalent or higher J-BAS. Small percentages of cattle could be introduced from a lower-score herd, but would need to be managed within the property biosecurity plan, which might involve keeping them separate from young cattle on the property and including them in any testing that occurs (required for higher J-BAS levels). Introductions of lower scored cattle into J-BAS 7 and 8 herds should be discussed with the veterinary advisor before the cattle are purchased. Introducing large numbers of lower-score animals would affect the score and should be factored in when deciding the J-BAS.

Are saleyards a risk for JD?

The time cattle spend in a saleyard is of little significance when assessing risk.  JD is usually brought onto a property through introducing animals with the infection. As cattle spend little time at saleyards and don’t graze there, they are a very low risk for the spread of JD, except through purchase of animals that became infected on their original source properties. A buyer interested in avoiding the introduction of JD should ask the seller for the J-BAS of the beef cattle (or Dairy Score of dairy cattle), as well as other animal health information. This may be available on a Cattle Health Declaration (CHD). Buyers should request a CHD from vendors and ask additional questions to be sure any risks from JD are well understood.

Most beef properties in Australia are J-BAS 6, with many studs, especially those consigning to WA, being J-BAS 7.

Saleyard operators may wish to protect the score 6 and 7 cattle from risk from score 0, 2 and 4 cattle, such as by requiring a CHD for all cattle and isolating 0, 2 and 4 cattle and afterwards cleaning their pens.  This should be logistically manageable for most sites, as few consignments of low-score beef cattle would be expected.

The movement of J-BAS 7 or 8 cattle through saleyards may affect their eligibility to meet WA entry requirements.

How does J-BAS fit in with shows?

The risk of transmission of JD from one animal to another at shows is very low.  The most important JD transmission route is from cow to calf through infected milk or drinking from a contaminated udder.  JD is less commonly transmitted to vulnerable young cattle when grazing infected pastures.  In a show situation cattle are not grazing together and are mostly tethered and hand fed, so the risk of transmission is extremely low.  Cattle and especially calves should be kept away from the manure of other cattle. Biosecurity protocols should be incorporated into exhibition guidelines to prevent transmission of all livestock diseases (some of which are much more easily transmitted than JD at shows).

An exhibitor can indicate their cattle have a particular J-BAS by filling out the optional J-BAS section on the Cattle Health Declaration (CHD) on entry to the show, if the exhibition organiser requested a CHD be part of the show entry requirements.  While CHDs are voluntary, they can be requested and the answers given must be truthful.

Do I need a Cattle Health Declaration?

Although not mandatory under the JD program, a CHD should be requested by producers to assess the health information about the animals they may wish to buy. Some states/territories have mandated its use for cattle entering their jurisdiction (WA, NT, and SA). It is recommended that the CHD be supplied by the vendor and requested by the buyer for all cattle sales. You can find the form here

Can I rely on J-BAS when deciding to purchase cattle?

While a J-BAS is the most useful tool for letting buyers know the JD-risk level in cattle, it isn’t the whole story. Buyers should ask questions of the seller (there’s a JD checklist available to guide this questioning) and take into account what type of JD management the seller is using across all livestock on the source property.

As an example, if:  cattle and sheep are grazed on a property; all species are monitored for JD; the producer is engaged in managing OJD, e.g., through the use of Gudair® vaccine with sheep – then the risk of having JD in cattle is low. If there have been no clinical cases of JD in any species on the property for over five years, a J-BAS of 6 can be applied to the cattle provided other conditions such as having an on-farm biosecurity plan are met (see the J-BAS chart).

For cattle, calves are most at risk of becoming infected with JD, so buyers should take into account the scores for the properties on which cattle were born and raised, not just the last or current property.

The industry management system relies on the integrity of producers, especially as presented in J-BAS claims and health declarations.  If you’re concerned about the correctness or completeness of a declared status, you can ask for evidence to support the claim.

LPA Requirements

Is the AHA on-farm biosecurity template suitable for LPA accreditation?

Yes, it is suitable for LPA accreditation as it addresses all the elements of the National Biosecurity Reference Manual – Grazing Livestock Production.  For LPA accreditation, it is not necessary to complete Section 7 (the JD section) of the AHA template, but completion of Section 7 is required for producers nominating J-BAS 6, 7 or 8 for their herd.

If I do not complete an On-farm Biosecurity plan or have a Johne’s disease case, will this affect my LPA accreditation?

LPA accredited producers must have a biosecurity plan, otherwise accreditation will be affected, However a JD clinical case will only affect the J-BAS, not LPA accreditation.

Do I need to indicate my J-BAS on my LPA NVD?

No, but you are encouraged to use the Cattle Health Declaration to convey your J-BAS to potential buyers.

Is knowing your J-BAS a requirement of LPA?

No

Further information

Biosecurity Plans

On-farm biosecurity plan template – For producers to work through, with links to supporting documents to access and fill in as required. An additional action list, outlining biosecurity activities to be undertaken over the next 12 months, would help to make this a robust on-farm biosecurity plan specific to the property

The on-farm biosecurity plan template – The On-Farm Biosecurity Plan (including JD) – is a template that producers can use to custom-build an on-farm biosecurity plan specific to their property

JD in Cattle Tools

Cattle Health Declaration – National animal heath declarations are a way for producers to provide information about the animal health status of their flocks and herds. Buyers should ask for a copy and use the information provided to determine the health risks associated with the animals offered for sale

The Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) is a risk profiling tool developed for use with JD in beef cattle

Johne’s disease score in Dairy cattle – The dairy industry is promoting the use of the National Dairy BJD Assurance Score and adoption of hygienic calf rearing practices through the 3-Step Calf Plan and/or the JD Calf Accreditation Program (JDCAP)

Useful resources

JD in Cattle tools – A number of tools are available for cattle producers to help them prevent JD entering or manage it in their cattle. Animal Health Australia has collated them in one webpage

Everything you need to know about JD in Cattle – With recent changes in the way the disease is managed in Australian cattle, producers, vets or anyone working in the cattle production industry can find all the resources they need right here

Farm biosecurity plan – An on-farm biosecurity plan is a requirement for maintaining a Johne’s Beef Assurance Score (J-BAS) and will be a requirement for the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program in the future.

LPA program – All the information you need to know about the LPA program

 

Page reviewed: February 26, 2019